ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan attends a meeting during his visit to the newly-established National Command and Operation Centre for Covid-19 on Friday.—White Star
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan attends a meeting during his visit to the newly-established National Command and Operation Centre for Covid-19 on Friday.—White Star

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday emphasised uninterrupted supply of essential items during the countrywide preventive restrictions on movement of people and transport during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Khan was speaking during his visit to the recently established National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC). The total number of confirmed cases in the country on Friday topped 2,686 and 40 deaths.

The prime minister said: “There must be no compromise on availability of essential food items and sustainability of supply lines throughout the country.”

The Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Health had last month while announcing the decisions taken at the National Security Committee for containing the spread of the viral disease cautioned about the possibility of shortage of food and other essential items. Although no major shortages have been reported so far essentially because the government had directed that all businesses producing essential supplies be kept open and functional; and movement of cargo vehicles be allowed unhindered during the restrictions period, but there are apprehensions that shortages may still happen in coming days and weeks.

Mr Khan, during the meeting, warned hoarders. “Hoarders and smugglers will be made an example,” he warned.

As number of Covid-19 cases continues to rise, Imran visits newly-established NCOC

The prime minister further emphasised on effective enforcement of the decisions through NCOC for containing Covid-19 across the country.

The NCOC, a PMO statement explained, would serve as the nerve-centre for synergising and articulating unified national effort against Covid-19, and implementing the decisions of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) on Covid-19, which is led by the prime minister.

The NCOC works as a one window operation collating, analysing and processing information based on digital input and human intelligence from across the country. Recommendations based on the available information/ data are then forwarded to the NCC for real-time projections and timely interventions by the NCC. One of the core jobs of NCOC is, therefore, making evidence-based recommendations. But, the prime minister at a separate meeting ordered setting up of yet another multi-disciplinary committee for preparing recommendations for NCC, according to another PMO statement.

At NCOC, Mr Khan urged the centre to focus on health management, financial impact, socio-economic and food security, strategic communication and awareness and recommending calibrated and measured responses with the evolving Covid-19 situation.

The government’s focal person for Covid-19 and Planning Minister Asad Umar and NCOC DG Operations and Planning Maj Gen Asif Mehmood Goraya briefed the prime minister about the latest situation of Covid-19 pandemic, containment measures, and the planned actions.

Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Minister for Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar, Minister for National Food Security Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, SAPM on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, SAPM on Health Dr Zafar Mirza, SAPM on National Security Dr Moeed Yousaf and senior civil and military officials were present during the briefing.

Media conference

Military Spokesman Maj Gen Babar Iftekhar, later speaking at a media conference alongside PM’s Special Assistant for Media and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, said NCOC was helping the country’s leadership in taking informed and timely decisions.

Explaining the hierarchy, he said NCOC worked under the NCC. The prime minister chairs the NCC, while NCOC is being headed by Federal Minister Asad Umar and Commander Army Air Defence Lt Gen Hamooduz Zaman is working as its chief coordinator.

About the working of NCOC, the general said that it collects information from all provinces, AJK, Gilgit-Baltistan and the federal capital through digital platforms and human resources, and then collates and analyses it before formulating recommendations for the top leadership.

Under this system hundreds of thousands of people, who had been potentially exposed to infected persons, have been tracked and traced and provided “necessary instructions”. Maj Gen Iftekhar said 465 million messages have been sent out with the help of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to promote awareness about the disease.

Several areas of the country, the spokesman said, had been isolated to contain the virus on the basis of information received by NCOC.

Moreover, continuity of essential supplies to all parts of the country was being ensured through NCOC. Dispatch of human resources to targeted areas is also among the functions of the cell.

The military spokesman said that the Army was using all of its resources for containing Covid-19 and all formation commanders were extending assistance to the respective federal and provincial governments in their areas of responsibility.

Echoing the message of Army Chief Gen Bajwa, he said that everyone in the country would have to fight against the disease as one nation by rising above ethnic, linguistic and religious considerations.

Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2020